RIBA’s vision for education reform: The Education White Paper

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has today (Wednesday 11 January) published the RIBA Education White Paper, setting out steps to be taken to recruit and sustain an adept and diverse pipeline.

11 January 2023

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has today (Wednesday 11 January) published the RIBA Education White Paper, setting out steps to be taken to recruit and sustain an adept and diverse pipeline.

Firstly, we need to remove barriers and offer shorter and more flexible modes of study. We must also mitigate any unnecessary burden and confusion by reducing duplication – for architects, architecture schools and architecture students. This also means reducing student debt. The current system results in too many students burdened with enormous amounts of debt. The salary earned on entering the register is not comparable with the length of time it takes to get there.

The UK government must also recognise that the funding allocated to universities to teach architecture is inadequate. All UK courses that are part of the route to becoming an architect should be re-classified to comparable disciplines such as civil and structural engineering. High-teaching costs means funding levels must improve to ensure we produce the next generation of highly skilled professionals.

RIBA believes that simplifying and improving architectural education will ensure a diverse architecture sector, leading to better buildings and places for everyone to benefit from and enjoy.

Read and download the full Education White Paper.

Ahead of publishing the Education White Paper, The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) restated its vision for a more accessible and inclusive system of architecture education and communicated its views to the UK profession’s regulator on Monday 5 December 2022.

With student debt reaching around £100K and it taking on average 10 years to gain access to the register, RIBA has reiterated its support for reform of the UK system, including alternative models for university study and practical training. 

In advance of the ARB Board discussion on education and training, on 7 December, RIBA has also highlighted its key areas of concern and recommendations to the regulator: 

On routes to registration and RIBA Membership, RIBA recommends: 

  • The continued growth of different models of education including, apprenticeships and collaborative practice models. In addition, we should develop routes for overseas graduates and associated non-cognate graduates at advanced stages, with a test of competence prior to accessing the register and RIBA Chartered membership. 
  • The development of a five year integrated and accelerated pathway (including practical experience and a test of competence) as an acceptable route to registration and as a variation on the traditional 3+2+2 route. There remains value in a general undergraduate degree in architecture – giving students choice to pursue alternative career paths or transfer between institutions. The current provision for student funding, with recognition of variations across the UK nations, must be carefully considered and protected. 
  • Consideration of a ‘registration upon graduation’ model, where study has included appropriate structured experience. The Part 3 content is crucial to competence and would need to be fully integrated within the course structure. Restrictions may need to be placed on recent graduates, but ARB could undertake this as part of its protection of the register and CPD requirements.     

On curriculum and competencies 

  • The competencies ARB require students to demonstrate are significant. While a certain level of competence is rightly expected, the profession cannot expect a graduate on their first day of practice, to be able to do everything. Architecture practice is diverse, and graduates must know how to adapt and respond to a variety of new environments and challenges. CPD requirements exist because ongoing learning and engagement is essential for the profession to remain capable in a dynamic world.  
  • The RIBA has already undertaken a significant review of the curriculum and developed the Themes and Values for Architectural Education. We recommend that the ARB uses these overarching competences to ensure a clearly defined but aligned system for both ARB and RIBA - removing unnecessary duplication from schools. 

On validation, prescription and accreditation 

  • RIBA has a long and successful history of shaping architecture education programmes globally, giving the institute unrivalled experience in the field.  Validating over 235 programmes around the world, RIBA undertakes 30-40 school visits per year, with experienced members on each visiting panel. These panels review standards and provide advice to the Schools. Feedback from Schools of Architecture is that this professional engagement is highly valued. This engagement and collaborative approach underpins the values of the RIBA and the UK profession world-wide. RIBA recommends that the ARB’s new assessment procedure should be compatible with RIBAs Validation process, recognising that its visiting Boards are a vital asset.  

RIBA President, Simon Allford said:  

“In order to recruit and maintain a diverse and skilled talent pipeline, we need to remove barriers and offer shorter and more flexible modes of study. It’s important we also mitigate any unnecessary burden and confusion by reducing duplication – for architects, architecture schools and architecture students.  

RIBA fully supports radical changes to speed up entry to the workplace and reduce student debt. We have established and globally recognised education and CPD systems in place, and we are committed to sharing our expertise with the ARB, so that together we can create an education system that works for all.”  

RIBA Board Chair, Jack Pringle has written to ARB Board Chair, Alan Kershaw – reiterating these recommendations, in advance of their upcoming board meeting.  

ENDS 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Media contact: Ruby.Oshea@riba.org 
  2. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates.  

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